How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.

Conclusion

Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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411 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Ana

    I rented my detached duplex to a family and the in-laws. We did a criminal and credit check on them and everything was fine. They paid every month until the 10th month which apparently they were using the property as a hotel and were renting rooms. They put up walls and even rented the shed. Things went wrong because they were renting to drug addicts, people with mental problems, pregnant women, etc… and abandoned the property with over 15 people living there. Now these people don’t want to leave and they know the law and regulations more than anyone.
    I leave two hours away and had no idea that was happening in my property. Going through many expenses to get these subtenants out of the property besides repairs and utilities.

  • Penny

    I inherited property from my mother. A young boyfriend was living there. He took advantage of her. the property is in my name. It took me a year. He has not paid anything and he has never worked. The guy will not leave. He has used my mother’s name, cashed checks on a joint accoint.
    He would not let me in. Kept my mother’s illness from me.
    I just got sole ownership. A lawyer I had for a year has done nothing.
    How do I get possesstion.
    He won’t even let me in.
    It is my mother’s property and belongings.

  • BOB CIANCHETTI

    My father has severe dementia and is in a assisted living facility. He has a vacation home which is in his trust which has 3 children as survivor trustee’s. Two of the children want to sell the home and remove the financial burden of taxes and operating expenses. One of those two children has power of attorney to handle all financial and real estate matters for our father. The third sibling chooses to take advantage of the home at no expense of her own and has gone as far as to threaten lawsuit against a potential buyer and real estate company so she can continue to do so. she uses the home as if it were her own and has lived there as she rented her own home to generate income for her self.
    How can we stop her taking advantage of Dad?

  • Ginger

    Wow… where is our justice system? Can we please revert back to living life the right way?
    I let a friend stay in a property that was vacant and was vandalized for 2 weeks before he moved out of town. All copper including water pipes were taken out of house rendering it unlivable until repaired.
    Home sat vacant only one month as we kept up yard and maintained it, but not a great part of town and was broken into.
    State of house remains the same one year later and we can not get this guy to get out so we can get work done to repair.
    He set up elect in his name and water and brings a hose inside to shower with.
    What can be done to get this non paying x friend off our property?

  • Jessica

    I’m renting a home and a friend of mine brings this girl I don’t even know to help me move stuff around my house as I had just moved in a month pryer. This girl asked if she could spend the night or two I said that was fine. I told her things weren’t working out she had to go i have her a week cuz she has been here less than a month and she said that’s not going to work for me she’s been doing drugs, she has traffic all hours of the night she doesn’t put food toliet paper laundry soap he hasn’t help with the clean up or repair of the house she claims to be pregnant as she hits the meth pipe and shoots or smokes heroin a how do i get her out of here

  • Sharon Weatherby

    I let so called friends rent a room from me until they could find a place. They moved in Sept paying me $300.00 for the room. A rental agreement was signed as a two week rental period in Nov I gave them notice that I would no longer be renting the room out. They will not leave, haven’t paid any rent, damaged my property and have verbaly and emotionally abused me they know that I have mental health issues and haved used it to basically torment me I’m trying to get help to file an Unlawfull Detainer with the court. I’m disabled and having extra utilities ect… leaves me with No money to file. Is there any way to get them out for the abuse I have had to endure in my own home?

  • Afroz Lateef

    I have a tenant whose lease was between my property management company and him. A year ago, Thor lease between the Mgmt company and myself was terminated by the company because I told them not to evict he tenant (non-payment of rent).
    Now tenant says he and I do not have a lease agreement and he hasn’t put rent for 8 months.
    This is in Dallas county, TX.
    What choice do I have ?

  • jerry

    Bring some vicious pitbulls and let them run your property. there’s no law against that. It’s your property and you were oblivious to the fact you had squatters

  • Squattas Maximus

    As a squatter, I would suggest maybe if your not living In your home, as it would seem you own 2 or more, let a sober, clean squatter stay..Better a guy like me than some tweeker..Ive slept on many a porch in bad weather, and I always looked for some idiot who didn’t upkeep his place, and it looked like I wouldn’t have a visitor..So, maybe instead of having 3 houses , maybe downsize and leave a little something for the rest of us…

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